Japan

Philip Patrick

Japan won’t forgive Joe Biden for his xenophobia gaffe

Joe Biden just threw a particularly nasty insult the way of Japan, a close ally of the United States, at a campaign event. The president accused the Japanese, along with China, Russia, and India, of being ‘xenophobic’ in their reluctance to admit large numbers of immigrants, and of damaging their economies as a consequence: ‘Why is China stalling so badly economically, why is Japan having trouble, why is Russia, why is India, because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants. Immigrants are what make us strong,’ he told a Washington fundraiser on Wednesday. The insult is being especially keenly felt over here in Tokyo The insult is being especially keenly felt

Philip Patrick

Japan is no country for young men

Another week, another fun fact about Japan’s declining birthrate and ageing population to startle and amuse us. Japan has now recorded a full decade where sales of adult nappies outstripped those of baby nappies. Thanks to the surfeit of geriatric incontinents, one well-known manufacturer, Oji Holdings, has made headlines by giving up on tots entirely and announcing it will shift its production to nappies for seniors instead. It is a reasonable business decision by the company. There just aren’t enough babies. Indeed, children under the age of 15 made up less than 12 per cent percent of the country’s population in 2022, while those aged 65 and over constituted almost

Philip Patrick

Who cancelled Miss Japan?

Karolina Shiino, a 26-year-old naturalised Japanese woman originally from Ukraine, has been obliged to give up her Miss Japan title after confessing to an affair with a married man. Shiino, whose parents are Ukrainian and who came to Japan aged 5, was awarded the title just two weeks ago. As the first non-ethnically Japanese woman to be crowned Miss Japan she had already generated a certain amount of controversy but the revelations about the affair, published in one of Japan’s weekly magazines, has brought her brief tenure to an inglorious end. The pageant organisers had initially defended Shiino by claiming that she didn’t know her lover (who is an influencer

Who’s afraid of population growth?

In ten years’ time, there’s a good chance that the main concern in the western world will be the threat of population collapse. Fertility rates are falling everywhere and no government has found a way of reversing the trend. Plenty have tried. South Korea has so far spent $200 billion on tax breaks and lowering childcare costs and has succeeded only in beating its own record for the world’s lowest birth rate, year after year. In Italy, the situation is close to a crisis, and in France it’s not much better. If this continues, the welfare state model, which depends on a decent worker-to-pensioner ratio, will collapse. There will not

Japan’s plans for an anti-China alliance

As the world’s attention focused last month on whether to send tanks to Ukraine, Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, was on a whistle-stop tour of the West. He held various meetings with G7 leaders, including Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden. His objective was clear: to create a new alliance that can counter China. Japan has been forming a ‘Quad’ with Australia, India and the US on naval manoeuvres  Japan adopted a ‘peace constitution’ in 1947 when it was occupied by the US, pledging that the country would never again wage war. For the past half a century, the military budget was capped at 1 per cent of GDP, and Japan

Philip Patrick

Japan’s earthquake has brought back painful memories

The year 2024 began in the worst possible way for Japan. At least 30 people were killed by a powerful earthquake which struck the Ishikawa prefecture on the west coast of the country in mid-afternoon on New Year’s day. The death toll is expected to rise considerably. The quake registered 7.6 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most powerful in recent history. To give you some idea of the magnitude, it is a level that will knock you off your feet – I was unnerved enough by the swaying I felt in a Tokyo department store 180 miles away to hold on to a rail. Japan’s geospatial

Philip Patrick

The admirable humility of Japanese sports stars

Who is the best paid sportsperson in the world? Cristiano Ronaldo perhaps? Or Kylian Mbappé? Lionel Messi? Novak Djokovic? LeBron James? Well, no. As of last week, it is someone even reasonably well-informed sports fans may not have heard of – a certain Shohei Ohtani, Japanese slugger and pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ohtani’s ten-year, 700-million-dollar contract is the most lucrative in sporting history. Except technically Ohtani will not be the best paid sportsperson in the world, or at least not until the end of his term, as he has chosen to defer nearly all of his salary so that the bulk of the money can be invested by

Philip Patrick

The upside of living in Japan’s ageing society

For the first time more than 10 per cent of the Japanese population are aged 80 or older, according to new official data. This reinforces Japan’s reputation as the world’s oldest society with 29 per cent of the population now aged 65 or more, a full 5 per cent ahead of Italy in second place. The evidence is there for all to see: walk around a typical Tokyo neighbourhood in the mid-afternoon and all you’ll see is old, often ancient people. You’ll think you wandered into a gated retirement community or an open air gathering of the Darby and Joan club.  The pandas in Tokyo zoo have been more prolific

Philip Patrick

Is it really not safe to extradite someone to Japan?

In November 2015 three men entered a jewellery shop in Tokyo’s upmarket Omotesando district, beat and injured a security guard, smashed a showcase and stole 100 million yen’s (£600,000) worth of goods. The suspects identified by the police fled to the UK, where, after the intercession of Interpol, they were arrested. Japan, unsurprisingly, wants them back. But in the absence of an extradition treaty with the UK it needed to make a special request. Last week, the extradition request for one of the men was turned down – with the court noting that the suspect’s human rights could not be guaranteed by the Japanese criminal justice system.   This is on its face

Philip Patrick

What does Japan make of Oppenheimer?

Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster epic Oppenheimer is wowing critics and selling out cinemas across the world. It’s already threatening to eclipse the disappointing Indiana Jones remake and even Tom Cruise’s raved about latest instalment of the Mission Impossible series. But it’s a worldwide hit with one notable exception: the film hasn’t been released in Japan yet, and no word has been given of when it will be. Some are speculating that there may be no Japanese release at all. That would be highly unusual. Japan, unlike some of its neighbours, very rarely bans films and has accepted WW2 offerings, such as Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers and Michael Bay’s Pearl

Ross Clark

The CPTPP trade deal shatters the ‘little Englander’ Brexit myth

Britain’s acceptance into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be presented by the government as a triumph, a statement that Britain really does, finally, have something substantive to show for Brexit.   It is a deal which could not have been done so long as Britain remained a member of the EU, as the only trade deals we were allowed to enter into were those negotiated by the EU on our behalf. Cynics might counter that there is limited point in joining a trade bloc when you already have bilateral trade deals with seven of its 11 members and have negotiated deals with two others which have yet to

John Keiger

What Germany can learn from Japan about the new world order

The end of the second world war saw the defeated aggressors Germany and Japan accept moral capitulation and begin new international lives as liberal democratic and largely pacifist states bent on cooperation not coercion. But over the last few years an increasingly unsettled international order has emerged to test the pacifism of the fourth and third largest economic powers. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has finally cajoled a reluctant Germany out of its semi-neutral stance. As war returned to the European continent, Berlin has bowed to Western pressure to release its Leopard tanks to a martyrised Ukraine. No longer virgo intacta, Berlin has forfeited its 80 year state of innocence.  Japan has reacted

Philip Patrick

Is Japan doomed?

Japan is heading for trouble, the country’s prime minster Fumio Kishida has suggested. ‘Our country is on the brink of being unable to maintain the functions of society,’ he said in a speech earlier this week. Japan’s birth rate, the average number of children a woman will have, is too low, and still falling. It’s 1.3, and needs to be 2.1 to keep the population stable. With every year that passes, there are hundreds of thousands fewer Japanese people.  Economics is mostly to blame. Once, there was a secure and predictable life was for the average Japanese person. The men would toil away at a big company in return for the assurance of

Philip Patrick

Why Japan has been a post-Brexit ally to Britain

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida is in London today to meet Rishi Sunak and sign an historic defence agreement which will allow the countries to deploy forces on each other’s soil. The two will also toast the new UK-Japan digital partnership which aims to ‘strengthen cooperation across cyber resilience, online safety and semiconductors’ and discuss trade including the UK’s accession to the CPTPP (Comprehensive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership). This all sounds great, but behind the official theatre, what is the substance of the upgraded relationship? The defence agreement is being trumpeted by the government as ‘the most significant between the two countries in more than a century.’ This references the

Japan’s rearmament could be a force for good

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s murdered former prime minister, would this week be especially proud of his country. At long last, and after years of protests and strife during Abe’s time in power, Japan has announced a reversal of its uncompromising post-war pacifism. Japan, its current prime minister Fumio Kishida has said, will now begin to rearm.  What was in question was not armaments, per se, but rather the ability of Japan’s armed forces, the self-defence forces as they are called, to fight abroad. Japan’s post-war constitution declared the country formally pacifist, and renounced both the ability to wage war and the means to do so. But all of this is changing as China

James Forsyth

Why Japan and Britain are teaming up to build a fighter jet

The UK will partner with Italy and Japan to develop a new generation of fighter aircraft with the aim of having them flying by 2035. Britain and Italy were already working together through the future combat air system, but the announcement of Japan joining them is striking.  For decades, Japan has had an informal cap on defence spending of one per cent of GDP. But attitudes are changing and the Japanese PM has announced plans to increase defence spending to two per cent of GDP by 2027. If Japan, which is still the world’s third largest economy, substantially increases its defence budget it will be a more effective counter-balance to